Will Modi biopic show both good and bad?

No, it is more emotion than documentation, says actor Vivek Oberoi on a visit to Bengaluru

Vivek Oberoi is gearing up for the release of PM Narendra Modi.

The boyish charm in movies like ‘Saathiya’ and ‘Yuva’ has not diminished with age. An actor’s craft mixes with unbridled excitement even when Vivek Oberoi talks politics.

He makes no secret of his admiration for Prime Minister Modi and switches to movies in the same breath, expressing happiness in joining hands with Malayalam superstar Mohanlal for ‘Lucifer’.

Rajitha Menon caught up with Vivek when he was in the city last week and found out about all that’s keeping him busy these days.

What made you decide to take up the offer to do a film on Modi?

I didn’t choose the film, the film chose me. I was being offered biopics on Modiji for six to seven years before this, but I didn’t think any of them were serious.

Sandeep Singh is one of the youngest producers in Bollywood and has co-produced movies like Bajirao Mastani, Ram Leela, Rowdy Rathore, Aligarh, Sarabjit and Mary Kom. It was during a movie shooting that he suddenly asked me if I was interested to do a film like this and I said yes in 30 seconds. He was surprised! He didn’t even have a concrete plan till then.

Then we got together a big team for research---we went through biographies, books, articles, more than a thousand hours of footage. I also had the benefit of having met Modiji many times personally; we have been friends since he was chief minister of Gujarat. So I knew many anecdotes, the way he used to speak, and I started piecing it all together.

A lot of people asked me if we are showing both the good and bad sides in the biopic, whether we are taking a balanced view and so on. I have always believed that a documentary is something you can sit with a fact sheet for but a film is an emotional experience. We were clear we wanted this film to portray an emotion of inspiration.

What were the challenges you faced while portraying him on screen?

Since the biopic was on a sitting prime minister, someone you see on TV every day, the comparison would be immediate. When we announced the project, everyone immediately said ‘Vivek can’t look like Modi’. I took this as a challenge because I am not scared to fail.

We were thinking of bringing in a prosthetics expert from overseas but I told them since this was a film about Narendra Modi, everything should be ‘made in India’. We got a team and then I sat for an eight-hour session. The most difficult part was not being able to pee for eight hours (laughs).

At the end of it, I got up and looked at myself in the mirror. Then I told them we need to do it again. I think we did the tests over 15 times. After that it was fun.

We see so many actors making political statements or taking a political plunge. What do you think this indicates?

I don’t think this is just restricted to actors. I think when you have an inspiring personality as prime minister (and people will feel I am praising him because of the movie), this is bound to happen. When you asked the youth of the country about politics 10 years ago, they would be bored. But now they are engaged and are expressing their views on social media. Whether it’s fighting or talking, it’s great. I am happy people are getting involved.

Your wife is from Bengaluru...

Yes. This is my sasural.

How often do you come here?

According to my wife, not often enough. According to me, too often.

What was the last film you saw on screen?

Avengers! I took my six-year-old son, my four-year-old daughter and my nephews, also six and four years of age, with me. Four kids and me, with samosas and popcorn and stuff falling all over me and yet I enjoyed myself (laughs). It was great fun because I got to see the film from the kids’ perspective and it made the child in me come alive again. I think I enjoyed the experience more than the film.

What’s coming up?

Inside Edge. We did really well and I am proud of that. We just finished shooting for the second season. On the day of the release of PM Narendra Modi, that is May 24, I am starting shooting for the third season of Inside Edge. Apart from that, there is something big I have signed with Ekta. That will be announced soon.
 

Vibhuti, coding and traffic

This is Vivek on Bengaluru: ‘I love the food, I love the people; I believe Bengaluru is a global village. It's progressive, it's vibrant and has a fascinating mix of technology and culture. There will be someone getting up early in the morning to go to the temple, put vibhuti on his forehead and then go to an MNC to do some major coding work. I love the spirit of the city. I hate the traffic and the garbage though.’

Sudeep’s invite

Kiccha Sudeep has been telling Vivek for years that he should come make a film here. “So there are plans; this is a great city to make a film in,” says Vivek.

Meme lands him in a soup

A recent tweet by Vivek Oberoi, which showed a meme that compared Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's personal life with the elections, received a lot of flak from netizens, including actors. He later said that even if one woman was offended by it, it called for remedial action and deleted the tweet.

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